Thrashers @ Rangers
Madison Square Garden, 7:00 p.m. Wednesday
Rangers record: 4-2-1
Thrashers record: 3-4-1
Both the Rangers and the Atlanta Thashers had a few days' rest following their last games and should rearing to go for Wednesday night’s faceoff at Madison Square Garden. The gaping holes in the lineup left by Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury, and Vinny Prospal have been smoothly covered up by the Rangers’ recent winning streak. Lacking their prime superstar in Gaborik, the Blueshirts came away with these past three wins mainly due to the gritty energy and hard work of nearly every member of the team.
As Kevin mentioned, today’s New York Rangers bear a striking similarity to their Long Island rivals. The Rangers’ situation as of late is also comparable to the story of their opponent tomorrow night. The Thrashers are another hard-working team without any overwhelming star power; their former franchise player, Ilya Kovalchuk, now plays for the Devils. (Kovalchuk, incidentally, scored the Devils’ lone goal in Sunday evening’s contest at Madison Square Garden.) However, recently instated General Manager Rick Dudley worked some magic over the summer to quietly build up a competitive team. The additions of 2010 Stanley Cup winners Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, and Ben Eager provide for a solid veteran presence in the lineup, while youngsters such as Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian are also being counted on to play larger roles in the upcoming season. Unfortunately for the Thrashers, Bogosian, the team’s promising twenty-year-old defenseman, missed the past five games due to a shoulder injury, and will not be travelling with the team to MSG.
Another notable player for the Thrashers has been Evander Kane, the Thrashers’ 2009 first round draft pick, who has started off his sophomore season with a bang. He leads the team with five goals, having racked up two in the Thrashers’ last game against the Washington Capitals, while sealing away one point for his team by scoring the game-tying goal with 32.9 seconds left in regulation time. Andrew Ladd has also been hot this season, having earned at least a point in every game except one. Ladd will enter Wednesday night’s contest with a team-leading eight points.
While Chris Mason has been solid in net for the Thrashers, the Rangers certainly have the edge in goaltending. The Blueshirts, however, still have a job to do Wednesday evening. They are in danger of falling prey to overconfidence, considering the excitement of Sunday’s epic goalie match-up and invigorating win. What’s more, visiting NHL teams tend to step up their game against the Rangers due to the excitement of playing at the World’s Most Famous Arena, so the Rangers need to sustain offensive pressure and put in yet another solid, sixty-minute effort no matter who the opposing team is. The Rangers have scored only as many goals as necessary (minus Brandon Dubinsky’s empty net goal to seal the 3-1 win on Sunday) to defeat their opponents. Without their offensive superstar to fall back on, no win will be an easy win for the Blueshirts. However, this team has fully embraced the work ethic necessary to win games, and we should look forward to seeing another smart, energetic hockey game once the puck drops tomorrow night.